It's the Geriatrics Wot Will Win the Ovaltine ElectionM'''

The Times 06.04.2010, Penny Wark "Young, Cool, Indifferent: Digital Generation Finds it Hard to Connect"

Politicians, especially those fighting an election, love to be pictured with them, insist they are listening to them and constantly vie for their vote. Yet, according to a new report on the issues facing 16 to 25-year-olds, the gulf between the political class and this crucial group has never been greater.

A defining characteristic of the 16-25 generation is their digital identity. The authors of Anatomy of Youth, produced by the Demos think-tank and the youth volunteering organisation v, say that 90 per cent of this age group use social networking sites and a quarter describe themselves as addicted to their mobile phones. But while sharing personal information has become commonplace, 60 per cent have not considered the potential effects of posting personal details on the internet. Without clear boundaries between what is public and what is private, this puts them at risk, the report argues.

Neither are young people necessarily grounded and secure outside the virtual world, the report suggests. Many have an ambivalent relationship with the communities in which they live. These multiple loyalties complicate young people's sense of patriotism, the report says. Analysis by v shows that 58 per cent of those questioned were proud to live in this country (the word "Britain" was not used) but Asian groups were more positive.

The declining birthrate and ageing population are likely to lead to a greater tax burden on the 16-25s, already more likely than earlier generations to rely on financial help from parents well into adulthood.

For today's young people, politics is no longer the only way to have a say, Charlie Tims, of Demos, said. "For young people, citizenship is an act, rather than a duty."

The danger is that unless politicians engage with young people on issues that matter to them, there will be even greater political apathy. This is one reason why Demos is calling for the voting age to be lowered to 16.

"Our research shows that 16 and 17-year-olds can make political judgments and exercise the responsibility that comes with that," Richard Reeves, director of Demos, said. "This is the generation that will inherit a massive budget deficit and its long-term consequences. Facing issues like this, now is the time for them to be able to vote."

Views from the digital generation

Christy BilletopChristy Billetop, 23, Loughborough. Occupation: Sales adviser
The way I want to make a difference is by becoming a teacher - I'm starting a postgraduate course in September.

I don't think you can go into teaching unless you understand that whoever you are and whatever you stand for is going to be taken on by 20 kids every week. I want a solid career that will enable me to be financially independent. I'd like to buy a house one day, before I'm 30, I hope.

I'm not politically engaged, I've never voted, but that doesn't mean I don't care about what's happening.

Leigh Quilter, 24, Leicester. Occupation: Kitchen designer and parish councillor
Leigh Quilter If you're going to have an effective political system it requires informed people, so you have to start with education. At high-school level, pupils no longer get a thorough grounding in political or constitutional history and instead learn about relatively meaningless topics.

Young people are idealistic and, whether High Tory like me or socialist, they value principles and ideas. I'd like to see an adversarial system restored. Few people view politics as a duty and a privilege or a way for good men to achieve great things.

Lola Gillies Creasey, 16, Stroud, Gloucestershire. Occupation: GCSE pupil Lola Gillies Creasey

What I find annoying about politics is that people concentrate too much on the emotional side. Like in Gordon Brown's interview with Piers Morgan - I don't think that was necessary.

I'd vote Labour if I had a vote, though I don't think 16-year-olds are ready. But a lot of my friends know a lot about politics and feel restricted that they don't have a say. People on television think that children today are stupid. Then when we work hard and get good grades they say education is dumbing down.

Tom Smith, 19, Bath. Occupation: First-year business administration studentTom Smith

I think I will vote Labour. I'd have more trust in a Labour or Liberal Democrat government. It's to do with background, where the majority of the Tory party are from. After watching the Channel 4 debate I think Vince Cable and Alistair Darling are more normal than George Osborne.

Samia Aziz, 19, Colindale, northwest London. Occupation: A-level student
Samia Aziz
My parents came to Britain from Pakistan. I completely disagree with extremism.

I'm not really patriotic but I don't feel any different from any of my friends whose families were born here. I am grateful for the good things that Britain has to offer, like the NHS and the welfare state, though I am worried about job prospects. I can't see recovery from the recession being quick. I haven't decided who to vote for yet. I'm having trouble finding the key differences between the parties. I will be looking at foreign policy and education.

I'm worried that after the election we will have a lot of spending cutbacks and I think we need to put more money into education.